London Breed sailed to victory as the mayor of San Francisco. A local who rose from the housing projects to become the first Black woman to lead the liberal city, she won a special election in 2018 and then a full term in a landslide the following year. Times were good; the pandemic had yet to happen. If homelessness and crime worried San Franciscans, few of them blamed her.

Not anymore.

Now San Francisco is reeling, its downtown haunted by fentanyl markets and camps, its employers straining to repopulate office buildings with a decidedly more remote workforce. More than 70 percent of voters told pollsters the city is on the wrong trackand approximately 66 percent disapprove of the mayor’s performance.

With more than a year to go before the next mayoral election, Mayor Breed has already drawn a challenge from a former ally, Ahsha Safaí, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who topped her in a recent poll and who has built a campaign on tackling crime, especially what he called the “retail theft crisis.” And word leaked out of San Francisco political circles last week that Daniel Lurie, heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, was also planning a mayoral run.

The list will inevitably grow, said Jim Ross, a longtime Bay Area political consultant who ran the 2003 San Francisco mayoral campaign of now-California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“Anything less than 10 people running in a race for mayor is a small field for San Francisco,” Mr. Ross said. “But people getting into this early and with these kinds of resources? It is not a good sign for any incumbent. She’s going to have a tough race.”

As the pandemic subsided, its fiscal, spiritual and human impact has upset mayors from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles. But San Francisco has struggled more than most places in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown. Technicians who fled downtowns and lofts when the pandemic hit became accustomed to remote work and resisted returning. One-third of offices in commercial buildings downtown are vacant.

Homeless people and drug users who took to downtown sidewalks, filling the vacuum left by absent pedestrian traffic, sorely tested San Francisco’s ability to house and treat them, and reclaim its public spaces. Exhausted and worried, San Franciscans were divided across political, racial and class lines about how to move forward.

Parents in the city school district last year led the successful recall of three board members who were criticized for keeping students out of classrooms for too long during the pandemic and prioritizing social justice goals. Four months later, in June 2022, voters removed a progressive district attorney, Chesa Boudin, who was criticized for being too lenient in his prosecutions.

Mayor Breed himself fueled the fury. In December 2021, she stated sharply that she was sick of the petty crimes and drug addiction in San Francisco. She never took a position on Mr. Boudin’s recall, which political insiders viewed as tacit support. And she supported the recall of the school board.

“It’s an incredibly difficult environment to be in office,” said Maggie Muir, a spokeswoman for Ms. Breed’s campaign.

“The mayor works incredibly hard,” Ms Muir added. “She’s making progress on downtown revitalization. She’s making progress — and yes, it’s not as fast as some people would like, attacking the outdoor drug markets.”

Police data shows that murders are up 12 percent and robberies 13 percent higher over the past 12 months. Motor vehicle thefts increased by 9 percent, but burglaries decreased by 8 percent. The overdose crisis continued unabated, with an average of about two people dying of overdoses every day.

A pro-business moderate with progressive roots, Mrs. Breed, 48, won the mayor’s job five years ago in a special election following the death of Ed Lee, the previous mayor. She was re-elected with 70 percent of the vote the next year. Her current term was set to expire in 2023, but voters last year agreed to move municipal elections to even-numbered years starting in 2024, grouping them with federal and statewide elections, dramatically changing the mix of voters likely to turn out.

Further complicating the picture is the city system for electing local officials, which allows voters to select up to 10 candidates in order of preference. It’s unclear how the combination of the presidential term and the second-in-command system will shake out for Mayor Breed. Some analysts predict that the even-year vote will yield an electorate that is more progressive than the mayor, but in past elections, the by-election system has benefited her.

“Especially in the general election, you’re going to have a lot more young people and a more ethnically diverse population,” said Adam Probolsky, president of the nonpartisan California polling firm Probolsky Research, whose polls since April have shown a marked decline in support for the mayor. The timing could also attract San Franciscans who vote less regularly, he added, and who may not be as familiar with the candidates.

That could create lanes for challengers to Mayor Breed.

Mr Safaí launched his candidacy in May and was particularly vocal about retail theft.

“It’s the casual nature of it. It’s the way people believe they can just walk into shops, grab things and walk out with impunity,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. Crime, he said, “hits every corner of our city.”

Mr. Safaí, who was born in Iran and holds a degree in urban planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, began his political career in San Francisco working in City Hall under former mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom.

He has firsthand experience of the city’s crime problem. Thieves broke into his house last fall while it was undergoing renovations and took away the stove and microwave. Mr. Safaí calls for the employment of 500 more policemen.

Speculation has also focused on Phil Ting, a liberal state legislator who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee and is favored by the city’s progressives; his spokesman said Wednesday that he declined to comment. The progressive chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Aaron Peskin, is also being discussed as a possible candidate, although Mr. Peskin, a fixture of San Francisco politics for the past quarter century, seemed unequivocal in an interview Wednesday that he was not running.

“I’m tired, and my next chapter in life is not in electoral politics,” he said. “It’s time for me to leave the stage.”

Two people with knowledge of Mr. Lurie’s campaign plans confirmed that he has held meetings and recruited staff ahead of a mayoral run but declined to be named because the campaign has yet to formally launch. Mr. Lurie did not respond to requests for an interview. The San Francisco Standardcity ​​news outlet, first reported last week that Mr. Lurie intended to challenge Ms. Breed.

A native San Franciscan, Mr. Lurie comes from one of the city’s most prominent families. His father, Rabbi Brian Lurie, was the executive director of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco; his mother, Miriam Lurie Haas, known as Mimi, is a billionaire businesswoman; and his stepfather, the late philanthropist Peter Haas, was a descendant of Levi Strauss.

Mr. Lurie is a prominent philanthropist as well, and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for anti-poverty programs through tipping point, a San Francisco nonprofit that he founded. His wife, Becca Prowda, is director of protocol for Governor Newsom.

But in a city whose fierce local politics has been described as a “knife fight in a phone booth,” Mr. Lurie remains a political novice. He never held office, and the knives have already been removed.

“When you’re born or married into a billionaire family, you don’t have the experience to face tough challenges,” said Ms. Muir, the mayor’s campaign spokeswoman.

Other political veterans said Mr. Lurie might struggle to overcome his lack of name recognition among voters. “I’m sure he’s well known in the foundation community, and maybe with homeless organizations,” said Mary Jung, a longtime San Francisco political operative who supports the mayor.

Mr. Probolsky, the investigator, warned that it was far too early to count Mayor Breed out.

“If you want to claim she’s vulnerable, she is,” he said. “But if you want to make the case that she’s done? Finished? finished? You can’t, because you don’t know who will oppose her and how viable they will be.”

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